Fishing in Southwest Colorado
From the headwaters and pristine high mountain lakes surrounding
Durango, to the desert-canyon rivers and reservoirs, there are few
fishing areas that rival the majestic beauty, diversity, and solitude that
can be found here in the southwestern part of Colorado. Below is a
list of some of the most popular fishing waters found around this
Rivers & Streams:
Lakes & Reservoirs:
Animas River (lower)
San Juan River
For more information on fishing waters, directions, maps, and specific fishing regulations please visit our
Rivers & Lakes Maps section. This offers interactive maps, current river flow data, and an informational
page about each river or lake destination.
Types of fishing:
Angling techniques have a long rich history with a story of continuing advancements, from the invention of
the reel to the ever-improving tackle, gear, and methods. Below, these techniques have been broken
down into 4 of the most popular fishing types practiced for this region of Colorado:
Fly fishing where fish are caught on an artificial fly. Many different species can be caught with this
kind of fishing but most freshwater fly fishing is for members of the salmon family including different
species of trout and salmon.
Lure fishing where predatory fish species are pursued by casting and retrieving artificial baits or
lures. Pike, bass, and trout are commonly fished in this manner around Durango in calmer waters,
lakes and reservoirs.
Bait fishing where fish are caught on natural or processed baits. Salmon eggs, grasshoppers, and
worms are prime examples of natural baits used. Power bait, cheese, and bread are just a few
examples of processed baits. This type of fishing is often done to attract a wide variety of fishes such
as catfish, trout, sunfish and even carp around the southwestern part of Colorado.
Ice fishing where fish are caught in the cold winter months through a hole in the ice on a frozen body
of water. Ice fishing has grown more popular in the last decade, here in Colorado. The state
hatcheries have started stocking more sports fish in the late fall. Portable fishing shelters, electronic
fish locators, ice drills, and the ever increasing bait types have all played roles in the growing
popularity of ice fishing (CDOW, 2012). Trout and perch are among the most popular species caught
in the winter months.
License & Regulations:
In the state of Colorado it is required to have a fishing license when fishing in public waters. Annual
licenses are valid from April 1 through to March 31. For costs and more information about fishing
regulations in Colorado click here, to apply for a license click here.
Gold Medal Waters:
The Colorado Wildlife Commission designates streams that are considered to
provide excellent angling opportunities for big trout “Gold Medal Water.” This
water designation represents the highest quality of aquatic habitat for trout in
Colorado. Often there will be special regulations to ensure the fishing quality on
these stream sections. The Gold Medal status is given out sparingly. In
Colorado there are over 9,000 miles of trout streams and out of that only 167.8
miles are currently classified as Gold Medal streams (CRN, 2008). The
, which runs through the heart of Durango has a stretch of
gold medal water stream from merging of Lightner Creek to the Purple
Cliffs at the Rivera Crossing Bridge.
Southwestern Colorado is primarily known for its trout fishing. Anglers come from all parts of the country
to land wild trout in the scenic Rocky Mountains. Trout species found around this area are dominated by
the rainbow trout in both rivers and lakes. The Animas River is well known for its abundance of large
brown trout. Brook trout and cutthroat trout are more common in the cool clear high mountain streams
such as in Hermosa Creek. Rainbows, salmon, pike, bass, sunfish, perch, and catfish are all common in
the warmer waters. For more details on specific species of fish found around Durango and identification
information please visit the fish species page of the website.
Sport Fishes around Durango, Colorado
Baird, R. (2006). Fishing Colorado. (2nd ed.). Helena, Montana: Morris Book Publishing.
CDOW. (2012, June 12). Ice fishing. Retrieved from
CRN. (2008). Colorado's gold medal trout waters. Retrieved from http://www.bigtrout.com/goldmedal.html
Kindersley, R. (1994). The encyclopedia of fishing. New York, NY: Dorling Kindersley.
Martin, C., Knopick, T., & Flick, J. (1997). Fly fishing southern colorado. Boulder, CO: Pruett Publishing
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